So China is ruffling some feathers by claiming "Arirang" as part of Chinese cultural heritage.
Arirang mass games.
And while it's true that some people in China sing Arirang (after all, there are TONS of ethnic Koreans in Northeast China), others suggest this is part of China's "northeast project" of co-opting Korean culture and history as their own, probably in order to legitimize land claims in the region.
A few things just to throw into the discussion:
Jang Sa-ik's Arirang. (which of these is the 'correct' use of Arirang? Who gets to say?)
1. Retroactively assigning Korean-ness to things that happened in the past is always problematic, as is a group of people associated with a nation-state self-appointing themselves as the final arbiters of what is and isn't Korean, according to the current priorities, values and practices of their nation state. Too often, such claims are made for fishy motivations relating more to current national politics than honest historical reckoning.
2. The idea of the nation state only came about in its modern form less than 200 years ago. Retroactively claiming that certain practices, foods, songs, dramatic forms, or whatever, belong to one, but not another group of (long-dead) people, according to border lines that were drawn LONG after the origins of those practices, foods, etc., doesn't make much sense.
Guy gets his grandparents to sing arirang.
3. As I argued in that seventy-five piece series that took me a year to complete: Nobody Owns A Culture. Culture is something people do, or practice, not own. UNESCO might be more useful at recording and preserving world heritage if it began finding different, more flexible ways of identifying origins of cultural elements, so that all this crap about "national cultures" don't have to get mixed up in cultural heritages that predate said nations. It annoys me when something like UNESCO, which is trying to do a good thing, becomes a battleground for national historical claims.
If Pumashock sings SNSD songs, she doesn't BECOME Korean, nor does SNSD cease to be Korean because an American sang it.
This is also Arirang. There are tons of different Arirang melodies and versions.
4. China is a huge, amazingly diverse nation, and that diversity includes cultural elements that are not shared with the entire nation. Saying that "This is a song/set of folk songs popular with Korean Chinese in Manchuria" doesn't automatically mean that your average Han Chinese in Bejing, or Joe Chinese in Kunming will thenceforward stand up when he hears that melody, and say "That's MY culture," any more than Oregonians would say "This music defines me" about Dixieland jazz.
5. Arirang has been sung in so many different ways, in so many different eras, by so many different groups, with different themes, that it's more of a form than a song. One could almost say it's more of a genre than anything else. (one of the first things I learned in trying to find out the history of Arirang, is that it was one of the most popular songs in Japan during the first half of last century... though that might have been for similar reasons to why Gilbert and Sullivan set their musicals in the far east - as an aspect of the colonizing gaze.)
Haeju Arirang... you get the point.
All this stuff about essentializing culture, and retroactively assigning it to nation-state regions that hadn't been defined as such at the time of origin, and then getting up in arms when others also say that they used it, in that region, is just a little specious.
can we at least be honest enough to acknowledge that this isn't about whether or not Manchurian Koreans sing or sang Arirang, but about anxiety over the "Northeast Project" and China's attempts to co-opt Korean culture into China's matrix, and then talk openly about that, instead of making fusses about non-issues like this?
Oh shit! The New York Philharmonic played Arirang on instruments invented by Europeans. It's American culture now. Damn you Americans! First you stole the Stanley Cup from Canada, and now this! Curse you all! (bit of sarcasm there)
There's a video of a Korean baby singing a British song that was a hit worldwide, popular on an American website. So, Hey Jude is now a Korean cultural heritage. China can have Arirang if they want.